Tag Archives: The Apples In Stereo

Sun is out!

The human mind is a rational one, and logic usually prevails. Therefore, someone booked the Apples in Stereo to play the South Street Seaport, which is one of those wonderful regenerated dockland type things surrounded by restaurants and full of families and tourists. Following on from this profoundly sensible step of getting in an Elephant Six band who came close but never quite broke the surface of indie credibility, the support act was the Brooklyn Youth Chorus accompanied by members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

I went alone, because I wanted to go and no-one else did. Not usually an issue at gigs, but most gigs aren’t 60% children while it’s still bright with a teen choir supporting. I hung back, drinking a Cherry Coke. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, under the tutelage of an enthusiastic lady conductor reminiscent of one your average junior chorister might have had in school, finished with The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It was epic.

Most of the kids went away, which was convenient, because pushing to the front after the support is one thing when you’re in Tripod or something, but knocking young Chinese families out of the way so you can dance by yourself to the Apples In Stereo is probably not kosher.

Robert Schneider and his ageing crew emerge in silver home-made spacesuit-type garb.

“What year is this?”

The vocoder-keyboardist responds, in a vocoded robo-voice: “2010”.

“Oh so this is our 2010 New York show.”

“Yes.”

Schneider – and I should mention that he and all of the Apples are looking ridiculous – turns to the crowd to explain.

“We are from the future. We see a few months as just like a couple of days.”

A few laughs. They play a lot of songs from their new album, some of which are grooving. It gets darker, people dance more.

“Ah Gatorade. In the future we don’t have Gatorade because the water is so good. This is a great treat for us to drink Gatorade. Hey, does anyone remember Gatorade gum?”

More songs. Nods to older stuff, and maybe something off New Magnetic Wonder.

“I have a confession to make. We are not actually from the future. We’re just a rock and roll band.”

Well, thank god. I spent the first thirty minutes of the set with my heart in my mouth because I was so convinced that the Apples In Stereo genuinely were from the future. It got much more enjoyable after I realised it wasn’t the case.

They did most of my favourite songs: Ruby, Sun Is Out (“Does it matter if a song isn’t true, or is it better if a song is true? It’s not true right now, but it was true earlier so we’re gonna play the song.”), Can You Feel It?, Same Old Drag.

Once Schneider sheds the future-person persona, he becomes amazingly charismatic. He’s one of the nicest guys in indie rock – if you remember the week of arbitrary lists – and even with some extra beard, it makes you smile to hear him talk about writing songs in Kentucky where there are no city sounds or buildings. But always at pace.

The last time I saw the Apples was also the first time I saw Fight Like Apes and Big Monster Love, and I was barely 18 and Robert Schneider saying hello was a massive deal. I have the poster, signed by a couple of the guys, in my bedroom at home still. Interpolating some context there, just so you know.

It was a really good Apples in Stereo gig, but what makes the entire event a little more ridiculous was what ensued.

A man, probably a radio DJ, comes out after the Apples seem to have finished. He says some hypey crap about something and says how happy he is to have finally got the Apples In Stereo play too. People approve, and cheer. He claims we’re about to see “something special”.

So out come the members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, sitting at the front of the stage with their various stringed instruments and bows. Out come the Youth Chorus and their conductor. The Apples are squeezed into corners of the stage.

“This is a song I wrote for my son when he was going to sleep. I’m into physics, so I wanted to teach him about that and just have a cool song for him to hear.”

And the whole ensemble goes into Energy, off New Magnetic Wonder. When it ends, or it should end, the band cut out and the philharmonic bros carry it on, staccato on the strings, while Schneider and the Youth Chorus trade lines.

“The world is made of energy. The world is possibility. And the world is made of energy, and there’s a light inside of you, and there’s a light inside of me.”

It ends. The MC comes out again. Then everyone comes out again and they just do the a capella again.

Then there are half an hour of better fireworks than I’ve ever seen before, off the southern tip of Manhattan.

I stayed till the end, and then wandered off thinking about how ridiculously overblown and amazing and improbable a series of events had just taken place. But I was happy.

+++

Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine


So you’re an original founder of Elephant Six. You’ve got production credits on both Neutral Milk Hotel records as well as work with Olivia Tremor Control and Beulah. You’ve made enough great albums with The Apples In Stereo to have a good shot at the Indie Rock Hall Of Fame, and on top of that, your solo projects Marbles and ulysses weren’t too bad either.

What do you do next?

Write music for children educating them about science, maths and ethics! Make it into a cartoon!

That’s the career path for Robert Schneider, aka Robbert Bobbert from Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine. It’s unclear who the Bubble Machine is as yet, but the bookies have thrown up the names of the bubble machine from the Flaming Lips at 3/1 and the bubble machine who formerly worked with Dublin Duck Dispensary at 10/1.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Apples In Stereo + a straight admission that you’re writing for children = Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine.

But then, when you hear some of the songs about science, like ‘Gravity’, you’ll realise that certain AIS songs, like for example ‘Energy’… are exactly the same.

Check this one out:

Or if you want sound quality, try MySpace.

The Year. 15-11

15. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Living With The Living
Touch & Go

Ted Leo can sometimes come off as very slick and I will admit that the only reasons I stuck with this album is because of Clell Tickle, but it was worth it. There’s a really patent bluntness and lack of pretence about Living With The Living that is sometimes hard to come across in indie music. Of course, Ted Leo’s not really an indie musician, so that’s not really surprising. I think some of the reason why I grew to like this album so much is the punk approach, the sort of punk aesthetic. There are loud guitars on every single song, and there is no question of holding off on certain topics in the lyrics for fear of sounding pretentious or ill-informed. Possibly the majority of the album is about bombings, the CIA, the Army and the whole climate in America at the moment. It’s as potent as anything The Clash made about Thatcher’s England, and about ten times as literate. Bomb.Repeat.Bomb is breakneck stuff, and I think I found a Sopranos reference in A Bottle of Buckie. Twenty points for anyone who gets it too. The Unwanted Things is my favourite, even though it doesn’t have loud guitars and it’s not about geopolitics. It’s dub reggae in falsetto. Fantastic.
A couple of good songs on MySpace, and a website with a news section that is actually just a blog. Ted Leo’s a funny guy.

14. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
Secretly Canadian

Jens Lekman uses samples he must have found on the same 70s compilation CDs my mother listens to, but he comes out with something a lot more impressive than the poor plundered original artists. Every song is in the first person, every song is a story in the history of Jens Lekman. Some of them are so left-field it’s hard not to laugh when you reach that breakthrough moment of actually hearing the words and not just their sounds. Pretending to be your lesbian friend’s boyfriend to her Catholic father, but screwing up. Some are just everyday life though. Equally good. Sound-wise, there are guitars, glockenspiels, strings, percussion sitting on those samples, and the general mood is a sort of cruise band that doesn’t make a lot of money. The combination is world-beating however. Some songs on Night Falls… are almost too perfect. The Opposite of Hallelujah, for example, is tearfully pretty. So is Shirin. So is A Postcard To Nina. You get the point.
Brookyn Vegan chat with Jens, and he blogs on his website.

13. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
4AD

Zach Condon is only about a year older than I am, and he has released three excellent records of memorable songs with ambitious arrangements. One is an EP, one is very nice to listen to and one is nothing short of genius. Unfortunately for Zach’s place is this list, Gulag Orkestar is the work of genius, but that doesn’t detract from the charms of The Flying Club Cup. Transporting Beirut wholesale from Romania to France could have sounded a little contrived, and Beirut do sound a little contrived, but these are beautiful songs sung effortlessly over noble and considered music. Nantes is a particular stand-out for me, but there aren’t weak songs and as a whole the record laughs to scorn the shadow of the difficult second album.
MySpace replete with incorrectly spelled name, and the real city, twinned with no less than four places in France. Coincidence?

The Apples In Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder
Yep Roc

In stark contrast to Zach Condon who is only a year older than me, Robert Schneider could easily be my father, or more likely, my cool uncle. My first impressions of New Magnetic Wonder left me dismissing it as a sort of simplistic pop-rock album, but that idea faded quickly away. Lo-fi has been abandoned altogether, but there are some songs on this album that hit the same nerves and emotions as the most earnest bedroom tapes. Sun Is Out celebrates the sun, appeals to my heliophile tendencies, Open Eyes is shoegaze guitars introduced to Elephant 6 and the various Non-Pythagorean Compositions are… nerdy. What I like most of all about the Apples In Stereo isn’t something that I can use to back up a placement on this list though. When I hear it I’ll think of 2007. I don’t know why. The start of this year, no specific moment, just that sort of stage in my life. That will guarantee it more return airplay than a lot of the other albums, I think.
Some album tracks and a nice sell-out to Target on MySpace and an AV Club interview.

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
DFA

It’s easy to talk of LCD Soundsystem in terms of the bands and sounds they reference, but there’s no point to that really. Sound of Silver takes it even further than the first album, and even seems to reference some of the tracks on the debut, but nobody listens to an album to trainspot the influences, so I won’t talk about them. The semi-existentialist dance music is still present on Sound of Silver, but it occasionally transcends that. All My Friends sits on a piano loop and a Peter Hook-esque bassline (sorry! comparison!), and tells a quite poignant story. James Murphy said he was disappointed with the debut album because he held back and did things safely. If he’s fixed that on this album it’s because of the lyrics. Where other “ageing” musicians tend to recede into cliches and self-parody, James Murphy seems more like a novelist. The same, but wiser. On top of that, Someone Great is probably the best song released in 2008 and the best song about death ever written. No lyricist evokes like that. The rest of the album is good, but if you do nothing else because of this blog, get that song.
Website and MySpace.